May 31, 2012
Posted by William aka BlueRam
The multiverse is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to your local game shop, but that’s just peanuts to the multiverse, listen…
When you consider that we’ve already visited a multitude of planes, from the cold desolate nights of Rabiah’s desert to the humid jungles of Naya, you realise that we’ve only seen a handful of the worlds that are out there. There are, literally, multiple planes that still need to be discovered out there, and others that have only been touched upon. But there are also previous planes that are begging to be acknowledged; that we were there and have witnessed their world’s glory.
If only there were a way we could revisit our favorite planes…
I mean BESIDES creating a new set for standard.
A duel can take place anywhere. If you’re smart, you can use the landscape to your advantage. If you’re a planeswalker, however, you can change the landscape to your advantage.
Being able to walk from plane to plane is what defines a planeswalker. Without that, they’re just near-godlike beings who can cast multitudes of spells that cause mortals to cower in fear. Planechase is the perfect format to convey that defining trait for us.
If you’re not familiar with Planechase, there’s a handy article here where you can brush up on your how-to’s. Go ahead, I can wait.
Planechase is a format that I’ve always enjoyed playing with friends (at least until the Naar Isle or The Fourth Sphere would show up), and it gets better when we combine it with Commander. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
People usually play Planechase in one of two ways:
1) Each player puts together their own 10-card Planar deck with no more than two copies of a single card present. The Planar decks are shuffled, just like your regular deck. Then, once mulligans, turn orders, etc. have been resolved, the player who’s going first flips over the top card. This is your game’s starting plane (Whether or not this counts as planeswalking is unclear, so go over it with your group before hand since different planes have triggers that activate when you planeswalk to them. I, for one, treat this as planeswalking for simplicity’s sake).
2) Build a single stack of planes (picking and choosing which ones to take out based on your group’s preferences), shuffle it up, place it in the center of the game, and have fun planeswalking into the unknown.
Obviously the first version has the advantage of letting you tailor the planes you flip over to work with your deck, rather than hinder it as the planes have a tendency to do in the second option. The problem is that most people don’t have planes cards (although this can be quickly remedied tomorrow), but prefer to have a custom planar deck.
My playgroup solved this by dividing the planes into packs that we would draft from. Commander makes it that much easier to draft planes cards, since the generals each player will be using makes it easy to tell who’s going to try and grab what.
If, for example, I’m playing Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund then it’s a safe bet that Feeding Grounds is going to wheel and make its way back to me. This lets me pick planes that are good for my deck all-around without them supporting a single theme, like Minamo.
My playgroup chooses eight, rather than ten, cards that we drafted and use them as our planar deck, just because the nature of drafting will give you cards that are unusable by you, especially if you use your last picks to hate-draft other players.
Naya, Murasa, and Eloren Wilds are usually my go-to planes when I’m playing with Karrthus for the quick ramp they provide. My strategy quickly turn into “hit-and-run” tactics where I drop every land in my hand, and proceed to planeswalk to the next battlefield. Can you say “accelerated start”?
Krosa and Sokenzan are just good all-around cards that help my theme of “play dragons, smash face”, without being too linear in what they do. As long as we remember that they affect your opponents too, we can strategize around the players who are benefitting.
But the new planes cards are coming out too, and I think it’s only fitting that Karrthus gets a chance to wreck havoc in his home world of Jund, where he’s truly king. With enough creatures out, Jund’s ‘Devour 5’ mechanic means Karrthus has the very likely chance of OTKing someone as soon as he comes out from pure general damage. Grand Ossuary can make it so that no matter what happens to the rest of my legions of dragons, whoever survives will make sure to share their fiery wrath with the person who offed their kin.
But occasionally, you run into things you just didn’t see coming. The phenomena cards that are coming out really shake things up, and look like a blast to come across. Mutual Epiphany[card] and [card]Morphic Tide give us that shot in the arm we need to either refill our hand or drop a fatty that we’ve been holding onto.
But most importantly, these new planechase cards really help to speed up the game of Commander, much more so than their predecessors did. Commander games are not notorious for their quick starts. This is where the planes/phenomena really get to shine. The game quickly takes shape depending on where you start, and if you don’t like it you can spend your early turns trying to planeswalk out of there. It’s much more interesting than sitting around while everyone does the “draw, land, go” routine.
Considering the commander format, ‘one-shot’ effects become even stronger than they already are in 60-card games. The format with larger than life creatures and spells just got bigger. Just drop that Kozilek, Butcher of Truth like it’s nothing while everyone else drops Griselbrand, and Gisela, Blade of the Goldnight. Heck, why stop there? If you’re playing five colors, you could drop Progenitus and think nothing of it.
I’m not saying it’s bad, far from it. I’m just saying that if you use Planechase in your local EDH game, expect things to get absolutely crazy.
But having things go crazy is better than causing a game that grinds on to grind on even longer. I still have nightmares where my party gets lost in The Eon Fog of Equilor, or we’re all freezing our ***** off in the frozen Skybreen of Kaldheim.
But thanks to cards like Interplanar Tunner, I don’t have to worry about making that wrong turn at Albuquerque anymore. I’m glad too, since I’d rather AVOID the Sanctum of Serra when I’ve got a strong board position.
Phenomena cards do make it a little harder to draft, however since I can see players drafting fewer planes to cycle through their phenomena as quickly as possible, so it may require some balancing as to how many you can have. I say this without having had a chance to test them yet, so let me know how it works for you!
As always, though, it’s the flavor that truly sings to me about these cards. Traveling through the multiverse with your partner general and battling it out with other planeswalkers is what Magic is all about.
You’re not just visiting other worlds, like we do every fall when the set comes out: you’re actually fighting IN that world, and it’s affecting how the game plays out. We can’t survive long in the desert of Rubiah (Sea of Sand), the deathless horror of Phyrexia (The Fourth Sphere), or scalding inferno of Wildfire (Naar Isle), and those cards do a great job of making us feel the heat.
It’s always a risk to planeswalk when using a single, shared pile of planes, and the phenomena cards just made that risk bigger, but not necessarily for the worse. Yes, Planewide Disaster will live up to its name if you come across it, destroying your hard-built army, but it could also be your salvation as you desperately hop from plane to plane in order to dodge your opponent’s Avenger of Zendikar and his many plant tokens.
Now you’ve truly started planeswalking, and if I want to win then I have to follow you, whether I like it or not.
I’d love you hear about what you think of Planechase, as well as some of the stories I’m sure you’ve accumulated from playing it.
Drop me a comment below in the comments section, or email me at Wiehernandez(at)gmail(dot)com.
Next week I’ll be taking a break as I try to grind out finals week here at OSU, but don’t worry! I’ll be a guest host on the upcoming Commandercast podcast as we continue the discussion on Planechase, new generals and all the whacky antics Andy & Co. often get up to.
Then, I’ll be back the week after with even more flavor, as I discuss my beef with “Voltron: Masters of the Universe”.
Until then, catch me if you can. I’ll be waiting in the Selesnya Loft Gardens.